She is…

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

She is…

a peace profile
in sepia tones and
cotton candy dreams.

She is of crescent moons
golden curves and
star shine reflected in
half-open eyes of
REM sleep
digesting another day
on the apex of praise
attention, and even parody;

a knowing eye-twinkle at rest;

grace under any light
lunar or lampoon;
luminous
even among blackened
new moon night;

She is earthshine;
a crest of coral ocean foam
only hinting at the volume
of her riches within;

of permanent afterglow
guiding her acolyte home.

She is of resting face, lines
curving down at the corners;

not a frown, but layered
determined peace; a portrait
of meditative resolve
smoothed upon a
capricious landscape.

She is a cosmos
unto herself
but even she has
her breaking point;

she greets me at her center,
with shoulders slumped;
her horizon curves
back onto me,

and I learn of the depths
of my own strength
holding heaven aloft
with only my two frail arms
and everything I am

The nature of things is that
I am and she is.

But often I am
because she is.

Occasionally I am
so that she is.
***

Blueberries for Reina

Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Blueberries for Reina

I’ve never eaten a blueberry. I confess I didn’t follow my grandma’s golden rule; don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. They look vile and undignified; like grapes that didn’t quite grape correctly. But my grandbaby is housing those things like they’re nature’s candy, leaving blue and violet streaks everywhere; a little Rembrandt. Every so often, she offers me one with compelling questions of “Uhn? Uhn?” hanging beneath our sun-streaked skylit afternoon. I politely sing, “No thank you!” which always gets a giggle from her before she crams nature’s mess artlessly into her tiny face. She’s more blueberry than toddler now. Maybe I should try one next time she offers.

sea of blue and green
bird chatter and child’s laughter
we breathe together

***

Reina, destroyer of blueberries, all cleaned up now, focused hard on play. (Image by author, used with permission.)

Orion’s Lament

Photo by Simon Godfrey on Unsplash

Orion’s Lament

She was the first breath of spring
puncturing a stubborn morning frost.

She was jazz blooming from blues,
she was sacred verse bursting from psalm.

She was unrefined snorts and belly-laughs;
she was knowing eyes that knew better.

She was a midnight pub-crawl;
she was of pre-dawn shared comfort food.

She was nothing imagined
and everything desired;
she was love’s bloom; a promise kept.

And I am the fool hunter
who grasped at her corona,
eternally driving her from my reach.
***

Yes, I’m still overdosing on Hamilton. I’d ask Wifey to intervene, but we’re on this bender together. I have no regrets.

I’m sure we’ll return to normal soon, but have you seen my country’s normal? I say, let’s take all the manufactured joy we can get.

Released

Image by Wilhan José Gomes wjgomes from Pixabay 

Released

It is a
terrible gestating  
within

a low, relentless
rumbling thunder
in the distance

deep within
the abysmal well
of its own gravity

roiling and boiling
over upon itself

causing tremors

suppressed with
a trembling will
peeling steel plating
from iron bones

unsealed
it tears itself
from diaphragm

all lung
trachea
phalanx and phlegm

behold as trembles
once secured by
butterflies

now transmuted  

shattering bedrock
to find fault in
fault lines

as timid heads flinch
and even the bold
cower in confusion

oh yes
that heaven-piercing howl
is my voice

it is mine

your inherited rights
those monolithic
brittle sensibilities
are yours

for now

steady yourself
or don’t

you and I are
well past decorum.
***

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, but the world is burning, and video games have been a mighty fine distraction from it all.

Self-care? Self-care.

My current game of choice has obviously been the Final Fantasy 7: Remake on PS4. I’ve already beaten the game, but hey, why not go for 100% completion?

I think I’m ready to face the world again. Thanks for your patience.

Bonus video, because I couldn’t settle on just one…

Waking, Now Armed with Butterfly Net

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Waking, Now Armed with Butterfly Net

remiss bliss
I bid you stay
with a kiss
you fall away

eyelids flick
bringing freely
sudden death

a dirty trick
filling me
with your breath

puncturing softly
with careless resourcefulness
only to leave me
aloft in forgetfulness

in shrouds
on the brink
skewing blue

the clouds
lip-gloss pink
reclaim you

when my bed
became the very ground
that we unsheathed blissfully

now my head
empties of every grounded
word you breathed into me

with you along this alluring path
boding replay
a wonderful blunder

and now it’s your reassuring laugh
floating away
leaving me to wonder

if I ever knew its sound
from our beginning
or if that beginning
ever truly began

though I felt you near, around
my heart was grinning
as if we were ginning-up
the tides that ran

in this pale dawn I stand
matter ceasing to exist
I reach for your hand
scattering it in pastel mist

along with your forearm
elbow, dress-sleeve
your promises and charm
lukewarm reprieve

less than I was anticipating
leaving only me
cotton-candy cloud dissipating
where your heart should be

I’ve searched and retraced
our dreamy sham
you saw and embraced
me as I am

as no other had
and had I not leaned
in for more of you
could our moment have transcended
this trick of light?

I find myself glad
and sad that fate careened
into our floral view
as my tongue was apprehended
in thick of night

the sun won’t even pretend
to keep a fair score
can’t recall or comprehend
your name anymore

or if you ever had one
a dream of a life in retreat
dew drops of you rise, undone
but for a hummingbird’s heartbeat

I feel that I wrote
countless poems
dedicated to your eyes
shining only for me

repealed to remote
soundless moans
desiccated in pink skies
a pining, lonely sea

we won’t grow
from what plans remain
succumbing to sea
as bright fields
yawning bliss

I don’t know
what you stand to gain
when coming for me
as night yields
to dawn’s kiss

I must beg you, play not
with sleep so breezily
for next time you may not
get off so easily
***

Coyote Azure

Photo by Hugo Kemmel on Unsplash

Coyote Azure

Trailing the golden hour
everyone craves and praises,
there’s another wondrous state;

a shade of blue found
only in nature,

in latitudes nearing the poles,
nearing summer solstice,

just beyond sunset,
just before night snaps shut,

just above shadowed tree line,
when the sky reflects only
what’s needed; apology,
forgiveness, promises vowed
and kept, secrets shared

with roosting songbird and stirring frog as
coyote announces dinner to her band;

other than sunlight’s brashness,
coyote azure is the only color
that is felt and heard
more than seen.

Today is cloudless and fair,
and I look forward to
hearing this evening’s colors.
***

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

Photo by Andrew Draper on Unsplash

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

I.
I dreamt I died today,
and this was my last poem,
which isn’t a big deal;

I have died twice before,
run-through at seventeen,
undone at twenty-eight,

Respawning’s not instant;
often years overlap
some pieces remain lost,

the burn unrelenting
as pain from phantom limb
connect me to this realm.

Vast, and marvelous, we
are no more than my dream;
reality is me.

We cling to each other,
turbulent distractions,
our skin, burdened touchstones;

massaged lies, we embrace
pleasure clawed from our truth;
we’re so very alone.

Love me without knowing,
you’ll never see the seams
that bind the shame that is.

I would taste better as
ashes upon your tongue.
Love me until the void.

II.
Nothing warned me; nothing prepared me.
There was no vocabulary
for the remnants, for when the sun
turned away, withholding all of nature.

Nothing foretold the catastrophe,
nor was it immediately known, but felt
in phases; a series of cascading
calamities leaving the world dimmer
in stages as sources of nourishment
withered and fell like so many dominoes,

and soon, I found myself face-down
on momma’s couch, immobile,
unresponsive to external pleas to eat
or demands to get my shit together.

Soon, external voices no longer registered
as loud as the absence of the one who
no longer cared if I ate or starved,
and so I fell, falling behind the
dimming event horizon, leaving
only with what I entered; ending
as I began, staring into the space
between atoms as fields dissolved
and barriers melted to nothing.

III.
Perhaps in another life,
in a reality we’ll never know
I persevered against your will
shattered your absurd barriers
and married you.

I made you happy, filled your cup,
and exposed your doubts
and the specters of my many fears
as foolhardy fairy tales.

We had a girl and fought furiously
to name her; I wanted Olivia,
you demanded something African
that I couldn’t pronounce.

We compromised, choosing Nefertari
with Olivia as her middle name and
I was a good dad.

We loved each other
and lifted each other up,
instead of yielding to fear,
spite, and desperation,

but I guess if that all came to pass,
I wouldn’t really be me,
you’d be someone else,
and our daughter, a specter;
just another fantasy
of a foolish old man.

Stare into the void long enough
and the phantoms name themselves.

IV.
We all feel that lonely, empty,
meaningless pull towards twilight
of eternal nightshade where the
unknowable hell-verse beckons
as a perverse lullaby to our
seemingly incessant suffering
and so we are compelled to seek
its finite serenade towards infinity.

We hope to name it in order
to cast it back into its bottle;

we will ourselves to defy it
by defining it for ourselves, for

to chronicle it is to vanquish
its unshakable power over us.

We scrawl the void in ink and blood
and then someone labeled it poetry.

V.
In some eastern religions,
philosophies, and fiction,
heaven and hell are recast
as reincarnation and

the void; an endless chasm.

It is said that if our souls
carry too much vile darkness
at the instant of our death,
instead of our soul’s rebirth,

the last remnants of our light
are cast into the abyss,
never to feel warmth again,
left alone in an endless

chasm of despair alone
with the dreadful comfort of
all terrible emotions
imaginable to us.

At first blush, that doesn’t sound
all that bad to me; in fact,
it sounds like a fine place where
the best poetry is forged,

but never allowed to see
the light of a brand-new day.

But on second thought, perhaps
eternal life in darkness
as death’s greatest unshared poems
really is a hellish fate

to avoid at all cost.
***

Day 29: No Pets

Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

No Pets

What can I say, Wolf?
I’ve never owned any pets.
Too much overhead, too much work,

oh, and also because of slavery.

Yes Wolf; I mentioned pet ownership
and slavery in the same breath,
but it’s not like you’re gonna call me on it;
you’re just a dumb dog,

one that’s been dead
for nearly thirty years.

But fine, I remember those soulful eyes,
so I’ll try to explain it.

There’s something to be said of those
unlucky in birth who persevere
against all odds
to overthrow their oppressors in triumph.

Americans especially love these
underdog stories,
as our recorded history is full of them.

But what of the other stories?

With Tubman, Douglass, and The Amistad
as outliers of four-hundred years of
mostly humdrum,
garden-variety slavery,
with all the standard rape, abuse, and
outright murdering of slaves too stupid
to mask their intelligence,

how many stories of the voiceless do we know?

It’s weird, Wolf. You were a dog – a beautiful
German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix

 – but when I think of all the voiceless slaves
who were born and died in
unconscionable suffering,
I think of you.

To be honest, Wolf,
I haven’t thought of you in ages,
and that’s a shame, but

the less remembered
of your tragic life and death,
the better for me.

Or perhaps not; after all,
I’ve left your memory as it were, untamed,
but there it sits upon my return,
waiting patiently
only for me.

What if my sidestepping your legacy
is but one more injustice for you?

Our lives were intertwined for so long,
with much of the trauma descendent
directly from my ancestors in bondage.

You weren’t even my damn dog,
but I was your reluctant caretaker,
and there’s nothing poetic about
feeding you and cleaning up your shit,
but I felt your loyalty
and your agony in-kind.

Wolf, you were an idiot of a dog,
raised on ignorance and cruelty,
and yet you were still sweet and loyal.

I’d given up on hiding grandma’s tools
of discipline, as she’d just find herself
a sturdier switch to snap on ya,

but I taught you to sit using head-rubs
instead of grandma’s rubber hose;
you were always a good boy.

I wish I had told you that more.

I remember you having the audacity
to demand more head-rubs from me,
swatting at my hand with your paw
like Bunky the cat taught you,
and I happily gave them to you.

I wish I’d given you all the head-rubs.

But I’d graduated the basement
and fled to the Navy,
making the cut despite the odds.

I heard of your fate secondhand,
and I wept real tears over a freaking dog
that I didn’t even own

who lived his entire existence
chained to a waterpipe
in a half-finished basement,

life snuffed-out, most likely,
by someone well-known and trusted.

Can you imagine that?  

Anyway, yeah,
I’ve never cared for any pets.

Too much overhead,
too much work,
just too much.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Today’s prompt:

And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.

If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse. For inspiration, I direct you to a selection from an 18th-century poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, in which the poet’s praise for his cat ranges from “For he is docile and can learn certain things” all the way up to “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.” Personally, I’m lucky if my cat doesn’t just sleep the day away, but I find her pretty delightful all the same.

This was painful to write, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I kept trying to walk away from it, but it kept calling me back.

It’s unpolished, and I won’t be revisiting it at all, but Wolf deserves to have his story told.

Day 28: Figment

Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

Figment

The shining city
on the horizon is not
actually there.

It is much lower,
and cannot be seen from here
with the naked eye.

What’s visible is
a mirage; a refraction;
trickery of light.

Theoretically, it exists,
though where you think it is,
there is nothing tangible.

In the beginning,
I had nothing,
but it was all mine.

No room to call my own,
but I owned every room
in momma’s universe.

The space we called home
coalesced from a hazy shade of blue,
brightening at the boundaries,
basement half-windows facing south,
allowing indirect light.

In the mornings and afternoons,
the TV was mine to visit Sesame Street,
Mr. Rogers, Mickey’s Club,
until evening, when dad returned
from some place called work.

We played until it was time to be silent;
I asked questions until the answers dried-up;
I cowered from the silent shadows
until the birds sang-in the blue again.

Sometimes momma kissed dad goodbye;
sometimes the silence between them
needed the icy space of January air
to thaw again; but either way,

the space was mine again
to build, to ponder,
to question.

In the beginning I had nothing,
but it gleamed along the margins,
and it was everything to me.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Today’s Prompt:

Today’s (optional) prompt is brought to us by the Emily Dickinson Museum. First, read this brief reminiscence of Emily Dickinson, written by her niece. And now, here is the prompt that the museum suggests:

Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.

I went back to my earliest memory, when I was 3-4yrs old, and possessed neither a room of my own, nor the very concept of a room of my own. I did have tons of questions though, just as I do now.

Edited: Shared with dVerse OLN.

Day 25: Starting Back at One

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay 

Starting Back at One

There is a madness, a quickening, a voice
saying things one feels to be true, but
doesn’t want to hear, and so we stop and
shutter the door to beginning, living
in a state of non-living, but waiting for
death as if it were the next bus out of the
slum of existence, and so maybe the voice
should be revisited and heard to see where
it leads, and so we settle into the sound
even though we know it as a figment of
an active ego we’re vying to wrestle
control from, even if for just a moment
and the only sound observed should resonate
from the pulse, the heartbeat, the controlled breathing
of one who is close to oneness, for the voice
is just an awakening of noisy mind
being disciplined into silence as our
eyelids lower and the body sinks into
the chair and then the ground and then the softness
of cosmic fabric, and for the briefest of
moments it is felt, the connection we so
secretly crave has been there all along, for
you and I are now linked to everything
and everyone that has ever lived and who
will come after we are dust, and thusly, the
voice is silenced for a moment as water
becomes what is it shaped to become, just as
you and I have become water and the spring
season beckons a sliver of all seasons,
the pollen that tickles the nose coming from
a breeze that was the dying breath of artic  
jet-streams thousands of miles ago, roused by a
global spin and the sun’s disparate heating
of the sky; it is all connected as we
are unified by the breath of life, so when
I yield to you, I’m yielding to us, and once
bowed and humbled, you will see the good earth
and know that it is both ours and no one’s.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Today’s prompt:

Because it’s a Saturday, I have an (optional) prompt for you that takes a little time to work through — although you can certainly take short-cuts through it, if you like! The prompt, which you can find in its entirety here, was  developed by the poet and teacher Hoa Nguyen, asks you to use a long poem by James Schuyler as a guidepost for your poem. (You may remember James Schuyler from our poetry resource for Day 2.) This is a prompt that allows you to sink deeply into another poet’s work, as well as your own.

I included a bit of a shortcut to this prompt. While I found the poetry of James Schuyler to be amazing and engaging, listening to the speaker read it was a bit grating and took me out of it. Instead, I read it myself while playing a live Tibetan meditation music channel from YouTube. Midway through reading, I broke-off and began crafting my own poem based on how I felt in the moment, paying no heed to the other steps.

I think I did pretty ok. I certainly felt better allowing for a stream of consciousness and getting out of its way a bit before returning to shape it a bit. It was an intriguing experience and helped to center me a bit.